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The Kentucky Resolutions of 1798-99

The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798-99 were a series of resolutions passed by the legislatures of these states protesting the Alien and Sedition Acts. The Kentucky Resolutions were drafted by Thomas Jefferson and the Virginia Resolutions by James Madison. They are a democratic protest against what Jefferson, Madison and other Republicans considered to be a dangerous usurpation of power by the federal government.  The Kentucky Resolution of 1799 was the most radical of the resolutions and asserted that states had the power to nullify the laws of the federal government.

As you read, think about how the Kentucky Resolutions reflected Democratic-Republican ideology and why it makes sense that Democratic-Republicans like Jefferson and Madison would have opposed the Alien and Sedition Acts.

The representatives of the good people of this commonwealth [of Kentucky], in General Assembly convened, have maturely considered the answers of sundry states in the Union, to [the ongoing debate and discussion of]... certain unconstitutional laws of Congress, commonly called the Alien and Sedition Laws, would be faithless, indeed, to themselves and to those they represent, were they silently to acquiesce in the principles and doctrines attempted to be maintained....  Our opinions of these alarming measures of the general government, together with our reasons for those opinions, were detailed with decency, and with temper and submitted to the discussion and judgment of our fellow-citizens throughout the Union....  Faithful to the true principles of the federal Union, unconscious of any designs to disturb the harmony of that Union, and anxious only to escape the fangs of despotism, the good people of this commonwealth are regardless of censure or calumniation.  Lest, however, the silence of this commonwealth should be construed into an acquiescence in the doctrines and principles advanced... therefore,

Resolved, That this commonwealth considers the federal Union, upon the terms and for the purposes specified in... [the Constitution], conducive to the liberty and happiness of the several states: That it does now unequivocally declare its attachment to the Union, and to that compact... and will be among the last to seek its dissolution: That if those who administer the general government be permitted to transgress the limits fixed by that compact [the Constitution], by a total disregard to the special delegations of power therein contained, an annihilation of the state governments... will be the inevitable consequence: [That the construction of the Constitution argued for by many] state legislatures, that the general government is the exclusive judge of the extant of the powers delegated to it, stop not short of despotism ­ since the discretion of those who administer the government, and not the Constitution, would be the measure of their powers: That the several states who formed that instrument [the Constitution] being sovereign and independent, have the unquestionable right to judge of the infraction; and, That a nullification of those sovereignties, of all unauthorized acts done under the color of that instrument is the rightful remedy: That this commonwealth does, under the most deliberate reconsideration, declare, that the said Alien and Sedition Laws are, in their opinion, palpable violations of the said Constitution.... although this commonwealth, as a party to the federal compact, will bow to the laws of the Union, yet, it does at the same time declare, that it will not now, or ever hereafter, cease to oppose in a constitutional manner, every attempt at what quarter soever offered, to violate that compact.... This commonwealth does now enter against [the Alien and Sedition Acts] in solemn PROTEST.

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